H C Singh

HAITI- Its origin and Recent Tragedy

Almost a month back one of the worst tragedies occurred in Haiti, a small country with less than 10 million population. The disaster of January 12, 2010 killed more than 2 lakhs inhabitants, mostly poor farmers and workers. It is reported that for almost one week there was no food and medical aid from anywhere from Spain, USA and France, in particular, as they have been ruling directly or indirectly over Haiti. France ruled Haiti for a long after Spanish control. Accordingly the official language of Haiti is French.

Aid has trickled thereafter. But many thousand unfortunate remained under debris for more than a week. Instead of direct and substantial help to Haitians, particularly the orphans, there was attempt to take away or kidnap, many orphans by missionaries for adoption at a price or conversion. Some missionaries were even caught and jailed for sometime. Even after a fortnight of disastrous quake there were “Thousands of criminals on the loose and reports of rape and violence” and all types of crimes. USA could send hundreds of soldiers and volunteers to help in all spheres. But USA did not. Had USA or UN taken emergency measures and aid, there would have been some immediate relief to the poor victims of worst earthquake.

It will enlighten many to know the origin and history of Haiti in brief, as Haiti though founded in 1492 by Columbus, is now “oldest black republic in the world and second oldest independent in the world.”

Columbus, as is well known, was trying to reach India, but reached Haiti in 1492 a part of West Indies. Columbus thought that he had reached West of India, i.e. Haiti and adjoining areas, south of Cuba and touching Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Sea. Haiti is an Indian word meaning high ground. There are two chains of rugged mountains in North as well as in South, so it was named as Haiti and is known as Haiti since the time of discovery by Christopher Columbus.

During 500 years of its known existence, Haiti has met with many tragedies because of greed of Western Powers, particularly Spain, France and USA. Haiti was conquered, destroyed and re-conquered a number of times.

Columbus himself discovered gold and built a small fort of timber in Haiti. He left behind some of the crew, to guard the fort and get gold from the gold mines. But the aboriginals known as ‘Arawak Indians’ destroyed the fort and killed all those whom Columbus left behind. Haitis estimated population in 1991 was about seven million and it would be about 10 million in year 2010 before the worst tragedy struck killing as per latest estimate more than 2 lakhs inhabitants.

Because of the discovery of gold, many more Spanish settlers came to Haiti. “They forced the Indians to mine gold and raise food for them. They treated the Indians so harshly that by 1580 only a few hundred Indians were alive. The Spanish settlers brought slaves from Africa to “work for them” Spain continued to control Haiti and Dominican Republic till the French, English and Dutch pirates stationed in small island of Taruga made the life of spainiocals miserable. Accordingly king of Spain ordered them to leave Haiti and Dominican Republic and go to Mexico and Peru where Spain established new settlements. Haiti in due course, became a French settlement. French became the official language. France had brought almost 5,00,000 slaves from Africa in contrast to 60,000 French. French made Haiti more prosperous than even their colony in part of Canada.

However during French Revolution of 1791, the so called slaves became conscious and rebelled against the French. Though Napoleon had sent French soldiers to recapture Haiti and make it French colony but it was short lived. The rebels defeated the French and General Jean Jacques Diesoline, leader of rebels, proclaimed Haiti an independent country, thereafter recognized all over the world.

In Haiti more than 80% are farmers and live in villages. They grow sugarcane; coffee which are processed there and exported to USA and other countries. Besides Haiti grows cotton. There are cotton mills and craft workers handicrafts that they have woven. Only 5 to 10 percent know French and rule the country, Republic of Haiti.

February 15, 2010 Posted by | Achievers, Cold War, Political Commentary, Religion, USA, World History | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment